Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A Personal History of Consoles and Machines

Fuck my pants. I've just realised I've been playing computer games for 22 years. For clarification, not continuously. I also spent a lot of time drawing pictures of lightsabers.
My first gaming system was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This bad boy featured a breathtaking 16KB of RAM, which allowed for blistering processing of characters AND numerals. I'm not sure if I can really call it a gaming system, as I don't really remember playing any games with it, but I did program it to draw a circle and a clock. Fuck your Kinect, geometry and chronometrics is how we rolled in the old days. An interesting side note is that the ZX Spectrum was the first computer to be endorsed by the Lesbian and Gay Alliance, as it featured both male-to-male and female-to-female ports, earning it it's distinctive rainbow decal.

Now, I never really owned a Gameboy. It belonged to a kid in my class, Mark. Remember the fire in Leisureworld? They had an awesome fire sale afterwards and Mark picked up a Gameboy for £6. It had a crack in the screen and smelt of burnt Monster In My Pocket, but what are you gonna do? Mark kissed my girl on the P7 trip to Millisle, so he let me play with his Gameboy a bunch out of guilt. Coming in a snazzy grey and red colour combo, this beast featured a dazzling black and off-green display. It also introduced the world to Russian mind-control program Tetris. Everytime I hear that distinctive theme tune, I feel the strangest urge to kill Nelson Mandela, comrades. Interestingly enough, in Japan, the console was called Fanjitsan-su, which literally translates into RentBoy. This was changed for the Western market. I still haven't forgiven you, Mark.

I'm going to jump on a bit, simply because I never really played the Atari 2600 or it's ilk, so that brings us to the Amiga 500.

I have the fondest memories of this computer. Where to even begin? The pale gray colour, sat like a slab of sexy marble on my desk, aesthetically pleasing yet masculine. This bad boy rocked a 7.2 Mhz processor, with a massive 512Kb of RAM. It also featured a games catalogue that made most other manufacturers crap their pants in despair. Many hazy summer nights I would sit up for hours, playing Cannon Fodder or Sensible Soccer, or trying to draw boobies on Deluxe Paint. The Amiga 500 also used an external graphics adapter that plugged into the back of the machine to allow display on a TV. I was warned that if that the adapter was ever unplugged while the machine was on, the consequences would be as dire as crossing the streams of a proton pack. Sadly, I never got the chance to find out, as said adapter eventually exploded for some reason. My Dad said it was my fault. I think the blame should be placed at the feet of the Coke I spilt on it.

After the Amiga was buried (quite literally, in a shallow grave on Downhill Beach, which I visit once a year), I managed to get my hands on a Sega Megadrive. I had many happy times with the Megadrive. I became adept at the art of blowing a cartridge and tapping up, down, left, right, a+start before the theme tune ended. Aside from entering Sonic into the Gamers Hall of Fame, the Megadrive also gave me my first experience of 4-way gaming, through it's multitap. Nowadays, that sort of thing is irrelevant due to the expansion of online gaming, but back then having a four player game of Mega Bomberman on Christmas morning before vomiting chocolate reindeer on your cousin was a breathtaking experience. Here's a fact for you: In the US, the Megadrive was called a Genesis. The name was changed for the UK market as the band Genesis lodged a legal complaint. Apparently they were concerned that their fans might not be able to tell the difference between a cold, soulless machine and a games console.

Battle lines had been drawn in the previous console generation between Sega and Nintendo. You were one or the other, never both. If you like fruity looking controllers and games about rescuing unicorns from castles made of love and hearts (I made that up), you chose Nintendo. If you liked manly, dangerous consoles with games featuring men on motor bikes hitting each other with cattle prods (I didn't make that up), then you chose Sega.

Sega kinda lost their way a bit with the Dreamcast and the Saturn. Admittedly, there were some excellent games on the Dreamcast (Soul Calibur etc.) but the public didn't buy enough of them and Sega became developers rather than manufacturers.
Gamers now had a choice between Sony and Nintendo, with their Playstation and N64 systems. I chose the N64, and to this day I still think I chose wrong. There was just so much more going on with the Playstation than the N64. Disc-media driven, better processing power, more variety, and it had Final Fantasy 7 on it, possibly the best game ever made? The only thing that the N64 had which trumped the Playstation was Goldeneye and it's spiritual successor, Perfect Dark. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark introduced some of the staples of FPS gaming we know today. Sniper rifles, manual aiming, secondary functions on weapons, maiming innocents for fun whilst keeping within mission objectives. Fantastic. Also, Joanna Dark was the first videogame character I ever had a crush on. Man, I woulda dragged myself naked through broken glass just to hear her fart through a walkie talkie. Actually, you know what? Fuck you Playstation! N64 Thugz for life!

Well, that brings me to the end of this little trip down memory lane, and it's been pleasant. I've overlooked some things that I'm ashamed of (Sega CD32X), and some things that are too traumatic to write about (Sega Game Gear with a TV Tuner).

I hope you've enjoyed it.

Now I'm off to print out a picture of Joanna Dark and enjoy myself some more.

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